Mayor Says Long Beach Is Ready To Move Forward

They represent the leaders of the business community in Long Beach. A community that Mayor Billy Skellie says saw significant growth in the past year.

"We added 58 new businesses," Skellie said in his state of the city address to the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce. "Some are existing commercial properties and some are commercial starts."

Skellie had more good news on his city and its citizens' rebuilding progress.

"We had 113 single family permits. We had 360 units at Arbor Station that are almost totally complete. Many of them are already leased and rented."

Skellie noted other businesses that have returned to the hurricane ravaged city. And he brought with him detailed plans for Jeff Davis Avenue, formally the city's business gateway.

"I think the plan is good, and I think the people on the street that need to work with us on right of ways and so forth have been very gracious about it," Skellie said. "They see the benefit of this and I think it's going to be a very nice project."

One of those people is Shawn Montella, who's already back in business on Jeff Davis. He was awarded the chamber's first ever Beautiful Business Award, but says it's been tough.

"It's really hard," said Montella, who owns Bankhouse Coffee. "We don't have traffic flow. We don't have a lot of the stuff you need for a downtown business."

But he agrees with the Mayor's optimistic message.

"There's a light at the end of the tunnel. There has to be."

And Skellie says while high insurance rates and finding financing for new construction remain big challenges, his city is finally positioned to move forward.

"When those things happen, Long Beach is ready," Skellie said.

Skellie estimates that the city's population is still around 2,000 people short of its pre-Katrina level of just over 17,000. By this time next year, he anticipates reporting a population explosion, and progress on many new infrastructure improvements and municipal building projects.